3 Dog Sleeping Positions: What They Mean
You Can Learn A Lot By Your Dog's Sleeping Habits
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By John Woods – We all love to watch our dogs sleep — from tiny twitches to full-out sprints, their adorable mannerisms can bring a ton of joy. But have you ever wondered about dog sleeping positions and what your dogs might be signaling by their naptime postures?
Keep reading to learn three of the most common dog sleeping positions, and what they can say about your dog!
1. Curled Up
Curled up into a ball with nose and tail tucked in is one of the most common positions in which you will find sleeping dogs. Traditionally, this is how their wolf ancestors slept in the wild — curling up not only conserves body heat, but defensively, it protects all their important internal organs inside the belly and chest. You usually won’t see your dog twitch as much in this position, as their movement is slightly restricted.
Before they curl themselves up, it is a common behavior for dogs to circle the area, or even dig at the ground or bed. In the wild, this served two purposes. First, dogs often dig small holes to sleep in to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Second, a dog paw pad contains scent glands, and by digging and pawing at their bed, they are attempting to “mark” it as their own.
If your dog turns herself into a ball when it’s naptime, it doesn’t exactly mean that she’s trying to connect to her great, great, wild grandparents. She could just be chilly, cozy, or a bit apprehensive about her surroundings.
2. Stretched Out
Instead of curling up tightly, some dogs sprawl out, and seem to take up as much space as possible!
If your dog sleeps on their side, this could be a sign that they feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings, as their vital organs are are exposed, and it takes them slightly longer to be back up on all fours.
It’s great news if your pup is comfortable being vulnerable. It means they are likely to be happy, laid-back, and loyal to you. You are also likely to see more sleep movement in this position, since their legs are not restricted in any way. The majority of twitching, flopping, and soft woofing occurs during the REM phase of sleep.
Like humans, dogs dream during the REM, or rapid-eye movement, cycle of sleep. No one knows for sure exactly what dogs dream about (and alas, their sleep positions can only tell us so much!) but sideways running and even wagging tails observable in this position might suggest dreams of chasing squirrels, a favorite tennis ball, or a rat-hunting dog may dream of chasing a rodent.
A dog sprawled on his back, all four paws in the air, and snoring happily can be quite a sight to behold. If you notice your dog in this position, it means not only that he trusts you, but that he could be trying to cool himself off.
Dogs have thinner hair on their stomachs than on the rest of their bodies, and some hypoallergenic dogs don’t have any, from which body heat can more easily escape. So by exposing his belly, your pup might be letting you know you should turn the air conditioning up!
3. On Their Stomach
Perhaps your pup prefers to sleep on their stomach, with their paws underneath them or splayed out to the side. With paws outstretched, this is known as the superman position! Stomach-sleepers in all forms are found for a few different reasons.
This position makes it easy for your dog to jump up and be on their feet in just a moment. For this reason, puppies and high-energy dogs often sleep on their stomachs, so as to transition from naptime to playtime at a moment’s notice!
Sometimes, especially with younger dogs, you will see them fall asleep almost as they are still standing up, and they’ll plop down on their bellies before they can even think about curling up or circling the area to find a more comfortable position!
If your dog is older and frequently sleeps on their stomach, it might mean that they are apprehensive, anxious, or uncomfortable. Like in the curled-up position, they are shielding their internal organs by laying down on them. If they are ready to pop up to all fours even in their sleep, it could be a sign that they are not fully relaxed.
Some rescue dogs, when they first come into their new homes, sleep only on their stomachs. As they begin to trust the family and become more comfortable, they will slowly begin to sleep on their sides and expose their bellies. Watching a dog gain confidence over time is one of the most rewarding aspects of adopting from a shelter or animal rescue!
Many dogs nap or doze in the superman position during the day if they are bored or need a quick rest. They may look still, and even snore softly, but check their ears and eyes for signs of alertness — dogs who’ve nodded off in this position don’t usually sleep deeply in it, and can be up and ready for a walk or play in a moment’s notice.
Analyzing dogs’ sleeping positions is not an exact science. Your dog may feel completely comfortable around you even if you never see him sleeping on his side or his back. Sometimes, it can simply be a matter of what’s most comfortable on a given day! However, more often than not, you can learn at least a little something about your dog based on the way they sleep — and who wouldn’t want that level of insight into their four-legged companion?
How does your dog like to sleep? Do they like to assume one of these three dog sleeping positions, or do you catch them snoozing in a different pose? Let us know in the comments below!